Ecophysiological trait variation in desert versus Mediterranean populations of a gecko

R. Schwarz*, G. Stark, E. Levin, D. G. Chapple, S. Meiri

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Populations inhabiting several biomes may experience different abiotic and biotic conditions, exerting local selection pressures. Temperature and water regimes are interconnected variables, that may differ between biomes, and greatly influence ecophysiological traits, such as metabolic and evaporative water loss rates. We hypothesized that Ptyodactylus guttatus (Sinai Fan-fingered Gecko) individuals, which occupy the Mediterranean and desert biomes across Israel, would follow the “metabolic cold adaptation” hypothesis and be adapted to the microclimate in the biome they inhabit. We thus predicted that desert individuals would prefer lower temperatures, and have lower resting metabolic rates and evaporative water loss rates at higher ambient temperatures than Mediterranean individuals. We also predicted that Mediterranean individuals would have a better body condition than individuals from the desert, because of higher primary productivity in the Mediterranean biome, and would therefore have higher mite loads. We further predicted that geckos from the desert would have longer limbs, enabling them to lose more heat to the environment, according to Allen's rule. To test these hypotheses, we measured the temperature preferences, field body temperatures, resting metabolic rates, evaporative water loss rates, body conditions, mite loads, and limb lengths of 82 P. guttatus individuals collected from four localities two from the desert biome and two from the Mediterranean biome. There were no significant differences in any of the tested traits when comparing between biomes. However, we found some differences in the evaporative water loss rates, body temperatures, body condition, and forelimb lengths between the northernmost and southernmost, and driest and wettest localities, supporting some of our predictions. Our results highlight the importance of the resolution of the analysis. Although some ecophysiological traits of P. guttatus seem to be conserved across localities and biomes, thermal plasticity in these traits may have helped this species reach its current distribution and occupy two biomes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Zoology
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • arid
  • ectotherm
  • evaporative water loss
  • intraspecific
  • mesic
  • metabolic rate
  • morphology
  • temperature preference


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